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Rock 'n' Roll High School Forever
cast: Corey Feldman, Mary Woronov, Michael Cerveris, and Mojo Nixon

writer and director: Deborah Brock

88 minutes (15) 1990
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
4 Digital DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 2/10
reviewed by Jim Steel
Let's see: straight to video, and no soundtrack album in any format. What went wrong? Pretty much everything... Even when it gets stuff right, such as casting Mojo Nixon in a musical cameo as the Spirit of Rock 'n' Roll, it still goes wrong. Nixon's self-penned High School Is A Prison is atrocious.

Rock 'n' Roll High School was fantastic, and any sequel that came out within a year or two of it was bound to do some business just through momentum. Waiting more than a decade before making the follow-up was the first mistake. Using a script by someone (director Deborah Brock) who has no affinity for rock music was also not a good idea. Brock even manages to give the impression that she hasn't seen the original; however, internal evidence suggests that it was briefly described to her at some stage.

The plot, such as it is, is fairly simple. The Eradicators are a rock band at Ronald Reagan High School, the re-built successor to the school in the first film. Every so often the kids have a minor riot to commemorate Rock 'n' Roll High School Day, which is the anniversary of the original school's destruction. This seems to consist of mass flushing of toilets and synchronised body popping. The principal is now the nice Mr McGree (played by the wonderful Paul Bartel in the original and by a charisma-free Larry Linville in this one). McGree is forced to appoint a new martinet of a deputy principal. This is Dr Vadar, who is played by the only actor to survive from the first film, Mary Woronov. Why she is given a new (but identical) character is beyond comprehension, unless Brock wanted to insert one of several Star Wars 'jokes' at the expense of the only real bit of continuity that she had at her disposal. Anyway, the Eradicators fall out with the preppies and Vadar after a food fight at a preppie dance, and are then banned from playing the Prom. The film follows their attempt to get to play it.

Oh, dear lord. Their ambition is to play the Prom! Was that the sound of Riff Randall shooting herself? But I have yet to touch on the real horror. This film is now closer in time to the original than it is to us, so come with me back to the year 1990. Do you remember? Grunge was breaking. We had Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Mud Honey. Hell, we even still had the Ramones. But turn away from them. Hollywood is always five years behind the current musical edge. The 1980s' influence would stagger on for a few years after this, like a western villain who has just been shot and can't quite believe he's already dead. Fashion-wise, there are mullets a-plenty, loud suits with the sleeves rolled up, those weird trousers that seemed to be the equivalent of upside-down flares, and much more besides. And people with fretless basses and little black corgi keyboards on stands produce the music. At one stage, in a warped echo of the plot to the first film, the Eradicators try to get tickets to go and see real life Canadian band the Pursuit Of Happiness (no, me neither), but this fortunately peters out.

But it's not all bad. Corey Feldman, whose only previous rock 'n' roll experience seems to have involved being one of Michael Jackson's little sleepover friends, puts on a great show as the singer of the Eradicators, and the rest of the band look like they know which way round to hold their instruments. Their material consists of rock standards, which backfires badly at the preppie dance when the chief preppie (Andrea Paige Wilson) screws up her nose at the incomprehensible noise coming from the stage. The band is playing Tutti Frutti at the time. What? You were maybe expecting a Slayer cover? They do manage a fine version of I'm Walking; it has to be said.

It should also be noted that there is a hell of a lot of classical music on the soundtrack: Bach, Beethoven, Musorgsky, Tchaikosky, Wagner and more; and in one of the subplots, Jessie (Feldman) falls for the beautiful new music teacher, Rita (Sarah Buxton). Rita gives a real rabble-rousing lecture in support of classical music to her pupils, which is just wrong. Don't mistake me - I love my Shostakovich as much as my Ramones - but rock music and classical music should not be mixed. We all remember progressive rock. I also can't help wondering how creepy it would have looked if it had been a girl pupil trying to pick up a male teacher.

To Brock's credit, there is one part that could easily have come across as disturbing but instead merely looks bizarre. Eaglebauer, Clint Howard's fixer from the first film, is still running his business from his office in the boys' toilets. By now, however, he's a thirty-something man and is played by Michael Cerveris. For some reason known only to the gods of continuity, Cerveris (born and bred in America) gives him an upper-class English accent.

The only possible excuse for re-releasing this is to satisfy the curiosity of Rock 'n' Roll High School fans. This version also appears to have been cut to make it the same certificate as the first one for the double pack (which also explains why some of it doesn't make sense). The Ramones' appearances here are limited to posters and the odd T-shirt. Dee Dee Ramone does have a song on the soundtrack, but it occurs during a demolition scene and is almost inaudible. Mercifully, the only extra is the trailer.

It does, however, have the same ending as the original. Literally. Much of the school explosion scene is a cut-and-paste job from the first film. And to think they called that one cheap.

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